Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Dayton Street shuffle

The superintendent of the Newark Public Schools system announced that the city state will close down seven schools; the fate of the students and staff has not yet been publicly announced. Ms. Anderson's attempt to go into specifics ended with her walking off the stage.

I've spent some time in one of the schools--Dayton Street. I was involved with "The Rainbow Room," a school-based health clinic named by the students.

Many of the kids come from a local housing project, where I once made house calls. It's a gritty neighborhood in a tough town adjacent to a beautiful park, and ('s a secret) many people are poor enough to be more concerned with shelter and food than, say, solving a quadratic equation.

Most of the staff busted their asses, and many of the kids did, too. That's true in Newark, that's true in Princeton, that's true pretty much everywhere you got adults who care about kids working with them day in and day out.

I don't know enough about the specifics today to comment cogently, so I won't. We'd all be better off if others would abide the same advice.

I do know enough that some jackass is going to say I'm defending the status quo.Then I will be told that zip code is not destiny by some pale person who has never thought twice about the cost of a cup of coffee.

I don't defend the staus quo--that's why I made housecalls in the projects. That's why I've managed to annoy both my union president and Mr. Cerf, our state education commish, within the same month.

The status quo I won't defend is institutionalized poverty.

If a car won't start because it's missing the engine, you're wasting your time cussing at the key.

And yes, one of the schools is Martin Luther King Junior Elementary School--who says irony is dead?


John T. Spencer said...

I taught at a school that "failed" enough times that it was eventually shut down. It was named after an astronaut back when the school was a refuge for white flight instead of a specially zoned area of Section 8 housing.

There was always a stigma attached to teaching in that school and to be honest there were a couple of really bad teachers who were sent there because other schools didn't want them. And yet . . . most of us were trying our hardest. You can't educate someone out of poverty. No one will admit that. We certainly never said that openly for fear of being labeled as having low standards.

The school was re-opened as a K-8 instead of a middle school. They're still the lowest-performing in the district and one of the lowest performing in the state, even with new teachers and new admin and a new instructional model.

doyle said...

Dear John,

Our local paper just praised her this morning for being pragmatic, not an ideologue.


Thinking may be a relic of the last century.

Andrew Campbell said...

I currently teach at a 'comp school' school or Compensatory School. I'm continually frustrated by the inability of bureaucrats to understand that schools that service 'at risk' students are more than just places to enhance literacy and numeracy. They're safe havens and places where kids get treated for health issues, counselled, etc. They house the only place some students can find a caring, responsible adult. Schools like these do more for their students and mean more to their students. Why shouldn't that be recognized in funding?